The Songs of Hollywood

The Songs of Hollywood

The Songs of Hollywood

The Songs of Hollywood

Synopsis

From "Over the Rainbow" to "Moon River" and from Al Jolson to Barbra Streisand, The Songs of Hollywood traces the fascinating history of song in film, both in musicals and in dramatic movies such as High Noon. Extremely well-illustrated with 200 film stills, this delightful book sheds much light on some of Hollywood's best known and loved repertoire, explaining how the film industry made certain songs memorable, and highlighting important moments of film history along the way. The book focuses on how the songs were presented in the movies, from early talkies where actors portrayed singers "performing" the songs, to the Golden Age in which characters burst into expressive, integral song--not as a "performance" but as a spontaneous outpouring of feeling. The book looks at song presentation in 1930s classics with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and in 1940s gems with Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. The authors also look at the decline of the genre since 1960, when most original musicals were replaced by film versions of Broadway hits such as My Fair Lady.

Excerpt

Songs written for Hollywood movies have always had to play second fiddle to those from Broadway musicals. We think of Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, and Cole Porter as writers of Broadway shows—Show Boat, Annie Get Your Gun, Girl Crazy, Kiss Me, Kate—but they wrote some of their best songs for Hollywood movies. Berlin, for example, wrote “Cheek to Cheek,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” and, of course, “White Christmas” for films. Other songwriting teams, such as Al Dubin and Harry Warren, Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen, and Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, worked almost exclusively in Hollywood. In more recent years, the Sherman brothers (Mary Poppins), Marilyn and Alan Bergman (Yentl), and other Hollywood songwriters have continued to create wonderful songs for films.

Yet songwriters themselves regarded writing for the stage more highly than writing for the screen. As lyricist E. Y. “Yip” Harburg, who worked with equal success on Broadway (Finian’s Rainbow) and in Hollywood (The Wizard of Oz), put it: “Broadway was the literary Park Avenue … and Hollywood was Skid Row.” Still, Harburg went on to say that “for a while, especially during the Astaire-Rogers era, Hollywood was turning out some great songs.” In fact, Hollywood songwriters created great songs well before and long after the heyday of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the mid-1930s. Beginning in 1929, lyricists and composers such as Leo Robin and Richard Whiting wrote sophisticated songs for Paramount operettas that usually starred Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald under the direction of Ernst Lubitsch or Rouben Mamoulian. At Warner Bros., Al Dubin and Harry Warren wrote jazzy numbers for films such as 42nd Street (1933) that were spectacularly choreographed by Busby Berkeley. At RKO, the songs of Irving Berlin, Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern, and Ira and George Gershwin were superbly rendered by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. In the 1940s, MGM, under the leadership of producer Arthur Freed (a lyricist himself), created such films as Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), The Harvey Girls (1946), and Easter Parade (1948), where songs were as integral to . . .

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